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Academic Language with ELL students. Welcome Who is in the room?. Topical Understanding… You will build an understanding of the 3 tiers of academic vocabulary and walk away with strategies and tools to implement in your classroom. Self Reflection.

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Academic language with ell students
Academic Language with ELL students


Who is in the room?

Topical Understanding…

You will build an understanding of the 3 tiers of academic vocabulary and walk away with strategies and tools to implement in your classroom.

Self reflection
Self Reflection

Take five minutes to reflection on the following questions.

  • Who are your ELLs?

  • What language supports have you found to be effective for your ELLs? Which supports work well for which students? Which of these supports are effective in group work?

  • What percent of your classroom time is devoted to teacher-fronted, whole class instruction versus small group work?

  • How much do your ELLs participate in whole-class instruction versus in group work settings?

    WIDA Focus on Group Work for Content Learning |WCER | University of Wisconsin-Madison |

15 helpful strategies and unhelpful practices for ells
15 Helpful Strategies(and Unhelpful Practices for ELLs)

1. On your table you will find five envelopes with different strategies/practices. With those sitting at your table, sort the cards into two categories –

helpful and unhelpful.

2. Turn and talk – With a partner take 2 minutes (1 minute each person) to share strategies that you have used in the classroom that were successful or ones you found in the matching you would like to try.

Turn and talk with ells
Turn and Talk with ELLs

  • Partner 1 could begin:

    “I think ____________________________

    because _______________________________.”

  • Partner 2 would respond:

    “I heard you say _____________________.

    I have found________________________ to be a helpful strategy with my ELLs.”

    Giving these conversation starters allows ELLs a structure for expressing their thinking. These starters will make them feel more comfortable speaking around their peers and allow them to participate without looking like they needed the structures and others did not.

Direct instruction and why it is important
Direct Instruction and why it is important.

Direct Instruction

By: Marzano

“One of the most crucial services that teachers can provide, particularly for students who do not come from academically advantaged backgrounds, is systematic instruction in important academic terms.”

Building Academic Vocabulary, Teacher’s Manual | Marzanoand Pickering | 2005

Kate kinsella ed d
Kate Kinsella, Ed.D

All students are AELL

(Academic English Language Learners)

Academic English is not a natural language that we acquire through extensive listening and social interaction.

Academic English, including vocabulary, syntax and grammar must be explicitly and systematically taught, not merely caught.

Kate Kinsella, Ed.D. | MELL Conference | November 17, 2010

Building academic vocabulary robert j marzano debra j pickering
Building Academic VocabularyRobert J. Marzano & Debra J. Pickering

There are two types of students-those from academically advantaged environments and those from academically disadvantaged environments- they enter school with significant discrepancies in terms of their chances for academic success.

Unfortunately, as time progresses, the gap in academic background knowledge grows even larger, as does the gap in academic achievement between the two groups.

Kate kinsella ed d1
Kate Kinsella, Ed.D




Concerns about

Issues with


  • Long

  • Worries

  • Problems

  • A lot of

Three tiers of vocabulary
Three Tiers of Vocabulary

Academic Vocabulary Video

Just think
Just think?

At the start of first grade, most students have about 6,000 words in their spoken vocabulary, and will learn approximately 3,000 more words each year through the third grade. Words are categorized by tiers, and their placement into each tier is made by a word’s frequency of use, complexity, and meaning. It is important to understand however, that not all words have equal importance when it comes to recommended instructional time.

So which words need to be taught? Consider this…..

Tier one basic vocabulary
Tier One-Basic Vocabulary

Tier One includes the most basic words. Words in this tier rarely require instructional attention and typically do not have multiple meanings.

Sight words, nouns, verbs, and adjectives are found in this category.

Examples: pen, boy, sad, run, cat, and orange

FYI: There are 8,000 word families in English included in Tier One.

Tier two high frequency multiple meaning
Tier Two-High Frequency/Multiple Meaning

Tier Two includes high frequency words that are found across a variety of content domains. They are words common to mature language users and are found in literature and adult conversations. They often have multiple means and can be generalized across a variety of environments. Tier Two words strongly influence speaking and reading, and therefore are important words to explicitly teacher.

Examples: masterpiece, contrast, industrious, measure, and loyalty.

FYI: There are about 7,000 word families in English.

Tier three subject related
Tier Three-Subject Related

Tier Three includes low frequency words that are found in specific domains such as content subjects in school, hobbies, occupations. These Three Tiered words are important to learn when a specific needs arises, such as when a a student needs to understand the meaning of mitosis during a biology lesson. Therefore, Tier Three words are best taught in context, when the need arises.

Examples: isotope, peninsula, and pedagogy

FYI: The remaining 400,000 words in English fall in this tier.

* Note that the classification of Tier Two and Tier Three words is not always clear-cut: there are multiple ways to select words. Personal experience influences word knowledge.

A six step process for teaching new terms
A Six-Step Process for Teaching New Terms

  • Step 1: Provide a description, explanation, or example of the new term.

  • Step 2: Ask students to restate the description, explanation or example in their own words.

  • Step 3: Ask students to construct a picture, symbol, or graphic representing the term.

A six step process for teaching new terms1
A Six-Step Process for Teaching New Terms

  • Step 4: Engage students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their notebooks.

  • Step 5: Periodically ask students to discuss the terms with one another.

  • Step 6: Involve students periodically in games that allow them to play with terms.

Now what
Now what?

  • Go to the OCG and begin to choose the vocabulary that needs to be explicitly taught.

  • Determine which words belong in which tier.

  • Find or create visual representations and tools needed to teach determined vocabulary.

  • We have several different handouts with ideas that may assist you in explicitly teaching vocabulary.